Chris Miller: Spurs should make easy work of Champions League progression

It shouldn’t be as hard as last season.

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This season marks Spurs’ fourth consecutive year in the Champions League Group Stage and with each year, Mauricio Pochettino seems to get more capable of managing the squad through qualifying while also maintaining Premier League performances.

That said, it came down to the wire last season, with things falling into place for Spurs in the last round of matches, Lucas Moura equalising at the Camp Nou with Inter Milan failing to beat PSV.

Throughout that period, though, Spurs had a solid record of winning four out of six Premier League fixtures following midweek Champions League matches, with two defeats coming against Manchester City and Arsenal.

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With extra midfield depth added this season through Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon and the currently-injured Giovani Lo Celso, Pochettino should find his squad a little easier to manage still.

Injured players are mostly returning just in time for the fixtures to become more hectic, and Pochettino will have good options in most areas of the pitch.

On paper, this year’s group does not look as tricky as last year’s either.

Bayern Munich – who have now been to the Group Stage a remarkable 23 times – are the headline act, with Red Star and Olympiacos arguably ‘easier’ opponents than PSV and Inter.

Spurs will also be going into the first match in better nick after the 4-0 thumping of Crystal Palace.

The best thing about going into half-time with a huge lead meant that Spurs could use the second half to conserve energy. They certainly took advantage, controlling possession and playing at a low tempo, taking any spice or intensity out of the game and keeping Crystal Palace largely at arm’s length.

Only Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela clocked over 10 kilometres, which is pretty unusual for Spurs.

Pochettino will want to get this campaign off to a good start, and the away trip to Olympiacos feels like a good opportunity to do so. They finished a clear second in the Greek Super League last season and were knocked out by Dynamo Kyiv in the Round of 32 of the Europa League, though they did beat Burnley in their play-off to quality.

In the 2017/18 Champions League, they finished bottom of their group with just one point. Of course, Spurs should not take the game lightly, but also go into it big favourites – in fact, odds on (at 5/6) to win.

It will be interesting to see whether Pochettino includes some of his younger players on the bench, potentially giving a debut to young Troy Parrott or new-boy Sessegnon.

In an ideal world, Spurs would have qualification wrapped up prior to the away leg at Bayern in December – and they should be aiming to win four out of their six matches.

But, we said last season that Spurs should be in a similar position, and it did not work out that way.

On paper, the signs look good for Spurs to secure qualification to the knockout phase, but it will be up to Pochettino to ensure that the players are fit, focussed and approach the matches with the right intensity.

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